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Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women

by Hagar USA, which supports the work of Hagar International
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Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women

Ha* was only fifteen years old when she was sold to a family in China as a part of a false marriage scam. The family that Ha was sold to in China treated her worse than they'd treat a slave. Hwould work from dawn to dusk and, her husband would throw her lunch on the floor next to their dog’s bowl and that was all she would be allowed to eat all day long. Because of the lack of nutrition, she was as small as a 13-year-old girl when she first came to Hagar.  

Ha managed to escape from China a few months ago. Our local partner referred her to Hagar Vietnam as she needed comprehensive care. Hagar Vietnam took Ha to the hospital to have a check-up with her father. The doctor concluded that Ha had slow cognitive development. Her mental stage is similar to a small child. Her father shared that since Ha was 3 years old, she used to wander around aimlessly and their neighbors would bring her back home when they would find her. Growing older, sometimes she went away for one or two weeks. The community was used to her wonderings and if they found her, they would feed her then take her home. It might be one of the reasons why she was trafficked to China.  

Ha stayed in Hagar Vietnam’s Recovery Centre for a few months to receive healthcare, psychological support, and case management. It was difficult to persuade her to stay at the center for a long term because of her tendency to go out. She showed irritation and depression when she had to stay indoor for a whole day. It was also increasingly arduous to bring her back after an outing. Hs earnestly wanted to go home. 

The issue Hagar faced was her health condition and how to support her within her local community. After several health checks, the doctor diagnosed that Ha was HIV positive. Hagar and the doctor did their best to explain to her about the virus and the treatment she had to receive. Her case manager worked with Ha to prepare a detailed plan for her when she went home. With her consent, her family and local authorities were informed about her illness and trained on how to maintain medication dosesworking with local clinics for Ha’s return. It was crucial to have local support and close observation of her well-being and whereabouts. We have been in frequent contact with Ha and her family.  

Tet or Lunar New Year is the biggest celebration in Vietnam and Ha was so happy to be reunited with her family for this special occasion. Her family has been busy because many friends and their neighbors came to visit every day. They brought Chung cakes, a special food for Tet, sweet and snacks to her family as gifts. Ha is well loved by everyone because of her bright personality. Hagar Vietnam is moved by all the support Ha receives from her family and community and committed to continue working with them in the future. Hagar Vietnam remember Ha fondly because of her vibrant personality and radiant smiles. 

*Ha's name was changed to protect her identity

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Hiep grew up in the mountains of Northern Vietnam. Hagar staff still remember the first time they visited her at home after she called the Hagar hotline. They arrived in Hiep’s village just before sunset, and then had to walk another hour to find her house. The only way they knew they’d reached the right place was when they heard her voice.  

Hiep has eight brothers and sisters. When she was younger, Hiep didn’t feel loved or known by her parents because they were always away trying to make money to feed their children. When she was 17, Hiep left home. A friend of their family told her about an ‘exciting’ job opportunity across the border. Hiep didn’t know it, but she was on her way to being sold to someone in China. Fortunately, a border guard stopped her as he was suspicious she was being trafficked. She didn’t have an ID and she didn’t seem to know where she was going.  

The government supported Hiep and she was sent to a vocational training center. After six months of being there, Hiep discovered she was pregnant. She was expelled from the center and her boyfriend left her. Hiep was referred to Hagar Vietnam. 

Hiep couldn’t comprehend that there was a life growing inside of her. She was five months pregnant, and she was sure that the baby would be a burden. Hiep was so desperate to not be pregnant that she would lift heavy objects, run fast up and down stairs, and sometimes hit her own stomach. Hagar provided medical care, psychological support, accommodation and parenting skills for Hiep. 

She was encouraged to take better care of herself through a nutrition program and regular check-ups. Hiep struggled to bond with her baby, but she patiently persisted in trying to. She would sit and listen to music and try to speak to the baby. Over time, Hiep found joy in the way the baby responded to her voice. She loved it when he would kick. On the day of her delivery, Hiep was very nervous. The first time she held her son, she was afraid she might drop him, but Hagar staff showed her how to hold him and feed him. Now, the baby is the light of Hiep’s life.  

Hiep learned how to be a barista through vocational training with Hagar. She had to leave her son in Hagar’s care at times, and she missed him terribly, but knowing he existed gave her the hope she needed to push through.   

“Life is tough and people are unpredictable, but I have to work hard for myself and my son. After a long day at work, a photo of my son motivates me to try harder tomorrow.” 

Hiep’s vocational training helped her gain knowledge and skills she needs to support herself and her son. TodayHiep is thriving, working with a supportive team and pursuing a new-found passion for her career. She works in a hotel near her hometown, which means she can stay close to her son while she earns a living. 

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We are proud to report the progress of our work. During the period January-June 2019, Hagar Vietnam reached 1,585 direct beneficiaries.

Trauma-informed care services supported 87 clients, composing 21 new admitted clients and 33 graduated clients. 100 percent of clients are offered multi-sectoral, comprehensive services. Clients received the following specialist inputs:

  • Safe accommodation: 13 clients
  • Legal support: 19 clients
  • Education: 16 clients
  • Health: 11 clients
  • Psychological counselling: 302 sessions of individual counselling for 33 clients
  • Life skills: 50 clients trained on life skills and legal regulations.
  • Economic empowerment (EE): 22 clients received economic EE support, and 150 husbands and wives received loans.

Through projects including Social Work training for Child Protection Officers in Hoa Binh and Cao Bang provinces, Decreasing Gender-based violence in Ethnic Communities in Yen Bai province, and TIC, Hagar Vietnam conducted individualized capacity building for clients, local authorities and partners. 

  • 11 trainings on TIC, child protection, self-awareness raising, gender equity, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), etc. conducted with total 297 participants from non-government agencies (NGOs), government agencies, academic institutes, etc.
  • 7 presentations on being a trauma-informed organisation, approach to support sexual abuse survivors, case management, etc. were presented in different national and international events.
  • 5 supervision courses on case management for 8 social workers were undertaken.
  • 3 training courses on legal regulations and life skills were conducted for total 45 clients.

Hagar ensured 100 percent of clients who required safe accommodation had access to safe opportunities. Safe accommodation requirements can be emergency/short term, or longer-term support.

Different safe accommodation options, allow Hagar to better respond to client’s different needs:

  • Simple house renting in community with an agreed safety plan or government-run shelters: for clients who can’t live safely in their own community or with their family/relatives.
  • School boarding houses: for adolescent client students in some circumstances.

In the first six months of 2019,

  • 13 Clients provided with safe accomodations
  • 100 percent clients who indicate they feel safer.
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“I can overcome what hindered me in the past, and so can you."

Loi, a 21-year-old client of Hagar International in Vietnam attended an international conferencein Taiwan in late October 2018. At this event, Loi had many opportunities to learn and grow bysharing her story and listening to other Ambassadors. 

When Loi was referred to Hagar two years ago by a former Hagar client, she suffered from multiple traumas, initially arising from sexual abuse and then social stigma experienced in her home village. Being blamed for being abused, and isolated, Loi felt unable to leave her house or talk with anyone. The abuser’s family lived across the street and whenever they passed by her house, they accused Loi and her family of lying about their son. Loi did not have anywhere to turn to, spent most of her time locking herself in a room, but did not want her family to be disheartened by her struggles. 

Becoming a client of Hagar, she was able to leave her toxic environment and move to Hanoi. Hagar’s case manager and psychologist worked alongside Loi to develop and implement an individual care plan for her recovery. When she first entered our programme, she couldn’t talk about her past experience of sexual abuse. She was given space and allowed to set the pace of her healing. When she felt safe, she learned a different way to look at her experience. Gradually Loi became more open and shared her feelings more. She found her voice. Loi started working and with Hagar's support, she entered university to study hospitality.


During her one week stay in Taiwan, Loi shared her story and her perspectives about gender identity and gender stereotypes with over 100 representatives from international NGOs in Asia. She confided “I have overcome all the stigmas and complexes of a victim to become who I am today. I work, I go to university. I am building my life and my future. If I can do it, so can you.”

Before, she pondered on the meaning of being a girl. In her hometown, girls are expected to finish high school, get married and bear children, and they should accept whatever is offered to them. Loi is determined that such a life is not meant for her. She believes that every girl deserves to know that she can be much more than what is expected from her. Indeed, she can be anyone she wants to be. 

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Tra, 24 years old, survivor of domestic violence 

Tra thought her married life would not be easy right after she got married. Her husband was sent to jail for 6 months being accused of damaging others’ property. Her mother-in-law did not consider her as a daughter-in-law but just another source of income for the family. She expected her to make money while insulting and beating her. While Tra was pregnant, her mother-in-law made her going to spray insecticide on the farm and sometimes beat her on her belly, saying that the baby was not her grandchild. Tra’s husband finally got out of jail but only ended up beating her up once in a while. Because of the dire relationship with her husband’s family, Tra went back to her parents’ home from time to time, even after she gave birth to her son.  

Tra was wrong in thinking that her parents’ home would be a safe shelter for her while being ostracized by her husband’s family. Her father left home since she was a child and she is the youngest of the 4 siblings. But seeing her and her son beat up and treated badly by her in-laws, her brother and sister-in- law not only didn’t sympathize with her, but tried to turn her away. They were afraid that if Tra kept staying home, they would have to share the family’s land property to her as well. One day they even locked Tra and her son, then less than 1 year old, outside of the house at night until Tra’s mother got back and let them in. They were beating and insulting her and were determined to kick her out of the house.  

Having nobody to ask for support, Tra sought help from local NGOs. Through some referrals she finally got to Hagar. At Hagar, she was supported with safe accommodation, nutrition and health care for both her and her son. She felt thankful for finally finding a really safe and thriving place for her son to be in. “If I had not found this house, I would not have had anywhere else to go to. I couldn’t neither go back to my husband’s family, nor my own family.”  

Growing up in a family without a father, which, among other reasons, might have caused her brother to be violent, Tra doesn’t want her son to grow up the same way with a violent father. Though being mother at a relatively young age, just like every mother in the world, she wants the best for her son. “I cannot be more thankful to have Hagar with me to heal my scars and rebuild my life. Hagar appeared when I was most desperate taking my child to run away from my violent husband and brother.” With Hagar support, her son is now going to kindergarten, which spares her some free time to spend  

on herself: getting psychological counseling, learning about infant care, taking up therapeutic arts activities at Hagar Recovery Center.  

Once feeling desperate having her own family and husband turning their back on her, Tra has now discovered the beauty of life because there are still people like Hagar staff who used to be complete strangers to her, sympathize with her and are committed to support her and her son in any way they can for as long as it takes.  

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Organization Information

Hagar USA, which supports the work of Hagar International

Location: Charlotte, NC - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Hagar_USA
Project Leader:
Catherine Sherrod
Director of Development
Pheonix, AZ United States

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